A dominating fourth quarter by the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts saw them continue their best start to a season ever. It was a nervy game at the Maidstone Pumas with three touchdowns in the final period giving the Dreadnoughts a 19-6 win. It means they have recorded victories in their first two games. Head coach Luke Head-Rapson was pleased with the result but said the team should have done better.
‘I was pretty annoyed after the game, although we got the win, we played poorly in the first half. People underestimated Maidstone based on their performance last season. But we have practised to keep going until the final whistle and towards the end of the game, we were physically more able than them. In the final quarter we showed we have the resilience to carry on playing and come away with the result.’
The game at the New Line Learning Academy started slowly with both sides struggling to make yards. A series of penalties from the Dreadnoughts offence moved them back from the Maidstone 30-yard line back to their own 40-yard line. A quiet quarter was finished with neither team getting near the endzone. The deadlock was finally broken by Maidstone in the second quarter. The home-side ran the ball in from the two-yard line and the half finished 6-0.
Stern words were said to the Dreadnought team at half-time with the players clearly unhappy with their performance. But they were unable to make the breakthrough after the whistle with the third quarter an uneventful affair. Shortly after the start of the fourth quarter the Dreadnoughts found their momentum. Blocks from center Neil Gibbs allowed running-back Tom Davies to find space through the middle of the Maidstone defensive line repeatedly. The hard work paid off and running-back Will Purkiss pushed through a crowd of players to get the ball into the endzone for a touchdown. The extra two points were missed and the Dreadnoughts drew level tying the game 6-6.
It gave the visitors the boost they needed. They continued to find yards and smart-thinking by Gibbs on a fourth down, when the Dreadnoughts needed three yards, saw him snap the ball after realising Maidstone had 12 players on the pitch. This gave the visitors a five-yard penalty and an all-important first down. Immediately after, quarterback Stu Rees found himself in space and dived, putting the ball into the endzone. The Dreadnoughts went for the extra point with kicker Purkiss converting, putting them in the lead at 13-6.
The Dreadnoughts finished off a dominating quarter with their third touchdown. Maidstone were trying to close the gap and threw a long ball but defensive-back Jay Hyland intercepted it and ran to the Maidstone two-yard line. From there, wide receiver Jake Smith ran the ball into the endzone and the referee blew the final whistle and the game finished 19-6. The win puts the Dreadnoughts at the top of the SFC Two South league table.
‘It is great to have two wins from two games. It is nice to see our names at the top of the table, even if it is because we’ve conceded the least points. It is the best start to the season the Dreadnoughts have ever had – that in itself is great.’
The Dreadnoughts now have a week break before travelling to face the Berkshire Renegades on May 7. Head-Rapson added:
‘I am feeling pretty confident ahead of Berkshire. It will be tough but I want to show we can push them and fight and show the Dreadnoughts aren’t to be walked over.’